With such significant responsibility to both man and nature, the mining industry should be leading the way in extracting the earth’s resources in more environmentally conscious ways. And it is – one product, one process, at a time.

The mining industry is pivotal in global industrial development. As the source of mineral and other resources in the world’s diverse building and manufacturing industries, mining plays an essential part in human progress.

This article first appeared in Mining Elites in Africa 2021
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But drawing from the earth’s resources does take a heavy toll on the environment. And the mining industry is increasingly aware of – and responsive to – this.

“It may be time that African companies considered looking at alternatives to TCE-based adhesives for belts and other mining rubber applications.” – Brendan van Niekerk

What mines are doing

In what is being termed “green mining”, more and more mines are incorporating environmentally friendly practices, products and approaches into their strategies and operations.

Supplementing energy requirements with clean energy such as solar and biofuels, implementing waste water purification, and introducing mine rehabilitation, are some changes that mines are implementing.

Another is using earth-friendly product alternatives.

A number of products often used in these operations include a compound called Trichloroethylene, also known as TCE or ‘trich’.

TCE is a non-flammable solvent and is used in adhesives for cold splicing of conveyor belts, rubber lining, friction lagging for pulleys and rollers, as well as for the permanent-elastic and high-strength bonding of rubber, fabrics, polyurethane and other materials.

What’s the alternative?

Some research has shown that TCE can be harmful to the environment and individuals who work with products containing the compound, should it leak into water supplies, be breathed in in great volumes, or be absorbed by the skin.

So, what is the alternative?

While TCE is currently the best option for certain applications such as underground mining due to its non-flammable properties, companies like Chemvulc are offering alternative solutions, to play their part in the green mining movement and provide the mining sector – along with other relevant industries – the option to use equally-effective products, but with a smaller environmental footprint.

Products such as Chemvulc’s CV4000 and CV3000 are specially formulated to have a more environment-friendly solvent base, but still pack the bond strengths of their traditional TCE-based peers.

CV4000 is used for cold splicing of conveyor belts as well as rubber to metal applications like lagging pulleys; while CV3000 is a cold vulcanising cement used for rubber lining large surface areas.

The latter product is used for tank lining and large pulleys, and this long-pot-life adhesive is also a safer alternative to the Trichloroethylene equivalent.

One step at a time

Within the European Union, the use of TCE is being phased out, and in certain countries like Australia, concerted efforts are being made to adhere to stricter environmental rules.

CV4000 and CV3000 are the perfect alternatives for above-ground applications of a cold vulcanising cement that has an environmentally safer solvent base.

(The non-flammability of Trichloroethylene-based cements is still a requirement for underground work.)

In South Africa and Africa, mining companies and service providers still prefer the TCE-based adhesives. However, Chemvulc has been exporting its alternative CV4000 to Australia for the past seven years.

Initially, volumes were modest, but the product has been well received by the Australian market.

A move to earth consciousness

Environmental sustainability is becoming an important KPI for mining companies; it may be time that African companies considered looking at alternatives to TCE-based adhesives for belts and other mining rubber applications.

Switching to CV4000 and CV3000 may seem like a small change, but in the long run it is good for the environment and the health of the people on the ground using the product.

For more information on Chemvulc’s Industrial range of products, please visit our website or contact our technical team